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Sobering Eyes in Bangkok

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14 years ago I stepped off a plane in Bangkok. It was my first taste of Asia. At 6 am, we arrived on the Khao San Rd with our jaws on the floor in disbelief at all the ladyboys laughing and calling after us as the sun began to rise over the infamous road.


Instead of checking into a hotel. We checked straight into the central bar. And chaos ensued.


Over the next few years, I would spend roughly a month of my life in Bangkok. With each visit crazier than the one to precede it.


The formula never changed. Buckets of whiskey, Redbull laced with amphetamines, and a celebration of whatever chaos ensued. The only time we left Khao San was in a tuk-tuk to some stripper joint, or ping pong show lord knows where.


It was pure hedonism. Bangkok offers an adventure few cities can compete with. The party is wild. And it only stops when you can no longer go on.


Last weekend I returned. We stayed in an area recommended off the Sukhumvit Rd. It was shit. Bangkok holds zero appeal for me beyond the Khao San Rd. And so I returned.


Nostalgia hit the second I got out of the cab. All the mayhem, the crazy stories, and madness came rushing back as if it was yesterday.


We proceeded to walk the street with a Chang (Thai beer) in hand to take it all in. The energy is impossible to capture in words.


It’s not Vegas. It’s not Ibiza. It’s not Rio or Buenos Aires. It’s Khao San. And it’s nuts!


For me, it was a walk down memory lane. For her, it was an entirely new experience.

We perched up at a bar. Mine was a Johnny Walker Double Black. Hers was, ahem… a Baileys!

No Buckets. No Redbull. No amphetamines. No problem.

Before long, we were back on the street negotiating with the locals and each other to see who’d take the first bite of Tarantula. My plan was for her to go first. Film it. And move on without touching the bastard. My plan failed—she was drinking Baileys after all.


When presented with an opportunity to see a Ping Pong show, I was all in. Because I wanted her to experience the Bangkok I’ve never remembered.


My eyes were open this time. To say it was sobering is an understatement. A fairytale ending for any girl is never to be on stage surrounded by Westerners laughing and cheering them on while performing tricks (albeit impressive) onstage with their vagina.


They were clearly miserable. One girl tried to cover her face she was so embarrassed as she performed… something I don’t even know what the fuck you would call it?


Needless to say, we left. We left with sad and sobering eyes having seen the pain and anguish these girls have to endure (for our pleasure) to most likely, live a life of poverty.


Those girls probably don’t have a choice. You probably do. We forget just how lucky we are. Because we’re always focused on what we don’t have.


I guess that’s the purpose of this post. A little reminder. For me. And maybe for you.


Too many of us behave like spoilt pricks, pissing and moaning about everything and anything on the Internet we can spin to offend us.

If you’re not happy with your life. Do something about it. Most of our problems are our problems. That’s an incredibly privileged position because it affords you the ability to do something about it.


You can piss and moan and whine all you like, but it won’t get you anywhere. You can also make the bold decisions that will get you somewhere. And change everything for the better.


Those girls don’t have a choice. That’s what they were born in to. It could just as easily been you up there. Subjected to the likes of me. Looking on with peering eyes, thinking, “could you not at least pretend to be having fun?”


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Originally posted on Medium.

Nicky Cullen